Gov. Harry Hughes' special redistricting commission tonight recommended a new political map for Maryland that would increase the clout of rural and outer suburban regions during the next decade, chipping away the power of Prince George's County and Baltimore.
The proposal culminated almost a year of political plotting by incumbent legislators and drew angry denunciation from those who stand to lose in the reshuffling, particularly from the powerful Prince George's delegation, which will shrink by one senator and two delegates if the plan is adopted.
"It's certainly not fair to our people," said State Sen. Edward Conroy (D-Prince George's), adding that he plans to ask Hughes to change the commission's map before sending it to the legislature in January for approval. "Every delegate or senator we lose is a key vote if we are to solve the problems of Metro, education and other urban problems in the 1980s."
Hughes had said he may make changes in the commission's plan for Maryland's 47 districts, but several officials predicted that it will remain generally intact.
Although the plan drew strong opposition from regions as different as the rural Eastern Shore and urban Prince George's, its basic outlines were inevitable because of the 1980 census, which showed a major population shift to rural areas and developing suburbs in Western and Southern Maryland and Howard County. The city of Baltimore lost more than 13 percent of its population and Prince George's did not grow as fast as the rest of the state.
The shrinkage in Baltimore created the most divisive redistricting battle because it will force the long-dominant city delegation to give up two of its 11 legislative districts, or two senators and six delegates. The situation, which has pitted blacks against whites and the central city against other neighborhoods, remains unresolved because the commission was unable to reach an agreement tonight.
In the Washington area, the commission recommended reducing Prince George's from eight to seven districts, awarding the new district to the boom town of Columbia in Howard County. The city of Laurel, except for the Montpelier area, would be split off from Prince George's to fill out the population of the Columbia District, and would be allotted one delegate. Montgomery County would keep six districts and one delegate in a seventh district dominated by rural Howard County.
It was the Laurel recommendation that most angered Prince George's legislators, who argued that their populous county deserved at least two delegates and possibly a senator in that area.
"Montgomery and Prince George's are both suffering at the expense of Howard County," said Del. Timothy Maloney (D-Prince George's). "Unfortunately, the governor's commission turned out to be biased." Noting that two of the five members of the Hughes-appointed commission live in Howard County, which is less than one-fifth the size of Prince George's, Maloney said, "It's like David and Goliath, but David had the votes."
The new map proposed for Prince George's would eliminate the district now represented by Sen. John J. Garrity of Hyattsville, placing him in a district with Sen. Arthur Dorman of Beltsville. Dorman's district, in shifting south, would lose most of Laurel where he has been popular for a decade. That district would also pit four delegates -- Timothy Maloney, Pauline Menes, Tom Mooney and Anthony Cicoria -- against each other in a contest for three seats. Other changes in Prince George's districts are not likely to affect incumbents.
The proposed lines for Montgomery County would put Rockville and Gaithersburg together in a district for the first time, and would join Potomac with a Bethesda district, but would not pit any incumbents against each other. They would place 37,000 people in the county's northern section in the rural Howard district, which would probably be represented by Sen. James Clark (D-Howard), the Senate president.
The commission carefully drew new lines for the rural Eastern Shore that would give all nine delegates a chance at reelection, but Del. John Hargreaves of Caroline County, the powerful Appropriations Committee chairman, is likely to be vulnerable because of uneven population shifts.
In Western Maryland, the conservative region that produced the most partisan struggle of the redistricting process, the commission proposed new boundaries expected to pave the way for the election of a new Republican senator -- Del. Ray Beck of Carroll County. The proposal would joins Carroll with conservative northern Baltimore County, rather than with the more liberal southern portion of the county as advocated by Democrats